Kevin Blakely is returning to Ohio, but not to KeyCorp, where he managed risk for years.

No, the regulator-turned-banker-turned association chief is headed to Huntington Bancshares Inc., where he will become chief risk officer in early July.

Why leave the top job of the Risk Management Association to manage risk at a $52 billion-asset bank that notched a $2.4 billion net loss in the first quarter?

"It was really a gut-wrenching thing to do, to leave RMA, but I think this is a great opportunity at Huntington," Blakely said Thursday in an interview.

"I think this is going to be fun."

Fun, or … ?

"It will be fun," he assured.

The move is surprising, and perhaps no one is more surprised than Blakely. But he ought to be getting used to it by now.

When he became the president and chief executive of the RMA two years ago, he had retired from KeyCorp. He planned to teach and even had an offer in hand from Case Western Reserve University to teach a graduate-level finance class. But the RMA called, and Blakely had served on its board while at Key.

"I figured it was a great way to cap off my career," he said.

Turns out a fellow RMA board member was Steve Steinour, the man who became Huntington's CEO in January.

"About a month ago he called me," Blakely said of Steinour. "I have a lot of respect for Steve, and this is an opportunity to go do something I am really good at.

"I think I can really help make a difference."

Blakely's wife never made the move from Cleveland, where Key is, to Philadelphia, the RMA's home. And Blakely said he will likely continue to shuttle between Huntington's offices in Columbus and Cleveland.

Before becoming a banker in 1990, Blakely spent 17 years at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. He was a deputy comptroller for special supervision when he moved to Cleveland to work for Ameritrust Corp., which, as he put it, "needed a lot of help."

But looking back, Blakely said that job "was one of the most interesting and rewarding things I ever did in my career."

Blakely succeeds Jim Nelson, who is returning to Chicago and the Federal Reserve Bank there.

Blakely paid Steinour perhaps the greatest compliment a CRO has to offer: "He's pretty darn conservative."

Blakely, 58, said he is not eyeing the CEO spot.

"I am going in as the CRO and I am probably going to exit as CRO," he said. "I plan to give this a good run, but if you call me 10 years from now you are not going to find me at Huntington. You'll probably find me on a beach."

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